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Vatican City: Pontiff to start tweeting in multiple languages

Pope Benedict XVI will start tweeting in eight languages from his own personal handle @Pontifex on Dec. 12.
Syracuse (WSYR-TV/ABC News) - Pope Benedict XVI will start tweeting in eight languages from his own personal handle @Pontifex on Dec. 12.

The Vatican said on Monday the pope will respond live to questions about faith during his weekly general audience.

Questions can be submitted using the hashtag #askpontifex, and the pope will likely respond to a small number of them, according to the Vatican's communications adviser Greg Burke.

The pope sent his first tweet last year from a Vatican account to launch the Holy See's news information portal, part of the Vatican's efforts to increase its presence in social media to spread the faith.

The Vatican's communications adviser Greg Burke told a news conference that the handle Pontifex was chosen for the pope's personal account because it not only means pope in Latin, but also bridge-builder, suggesting unity.

Vatican officials said for the moment the Pope will not follow anyone.

While the pope will push the button himself on Dec. 12, subsequent tweets will be sent by someone in the Vatican's secretariat of state.

They will, however, all be approved by the pope, officials said. Burke added that the Dec. 12 launch date, though chosen purely by coincidence, was also significant.

"It's the feast of our Lady of Guadalupe, so I think that is good news for all the Mexicans and all the Latin Americans," he clarified.

Outside in St. Peter's Square, reception to the idea of a tweeting Pope was mixed.

Sister Giuliana said that she thought it was a beautiful way for the Pope to be "together with the young people".

Sandro Autens, from Holland, disagreed arguing that "he should do other things to reach out to the young people, like start allowing condoms".

"He could tweet about that," he added.

Papal tweets will be sent simultaneously in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, Polish and Arabic.

The Vatican has been increasing its presence in social media, using dedicated YouTube channels, Facebook pages for special events and Twitter to engage believers and non-believers alike.

The Vatican decided against using a personal Facebook page for the pope because they thought it was too personal an interaction and would require more manpower to keep updated.

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